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Serie A Promotions, Relegation Battles, Trendy Kits & More: Talking Venezia with Marco Rinaldi

One of Italy’s most famous cities has been out of Serie A longer than many us have followed the league, so we brought on a Venezia expert to give us a closer look at the club.

Venezia FC v US Salernitana - Serie A Photo by Francesco Pecoraro/Getty Images

Often before big matches, we love to pick the brains of experts of opposing clubs to get a different perspective on some of Italy’s other sides. However, it’s often not as easy to find an English-speaking expert of many of the smaller sides in the league. So, our pre-match Q&As are usually limited to the larger, more accessible fan bases.

This week we were able to break that trend and find a great guest to fill us in on all things Venezia. The club is blowing up all over social media for its trendy kits this season, but the club from the City of Canals is long removed from its last Serie A season roughly two decades ago. Nevertheless, we were fortunate enough to find Marco Rinaldi who has suffered through the leanest years of the club’s existence and was able to give us a great perspective on all things Arancioneroverdi ahead of Roma’s trip to the Serenissima this Sunday.

We hope you enjoy and be sure to give Marco a follow on Twitter to keep up with all things Venezia.

To start, I have to ask, how does an Italo-Scotsman become a Venezia fan?

Marco Rinaldi: My mum’s family are Venetian and while I skirted with the big clubs when I first became interested in football in my youth, my love of Venice quickly caused me to settle on them as my team.

It’s been 20+ years since we last saw Venezia in Italy’s top flight. As someone who started following the league in the mid-2000s, I’ve never seen the club playing in Italy’s top-flight before now, which is mind-boggling when you consider the prestige that the city of Venice has worldwide. Can you give us an idea of what the last two decades have been like for the club? And how has the club been able to reverse its fortunes?

MR: It’s been a very difficult period to be a Venezia fan. I’m old enough to remember our last time in Serie A, and for at least a time, it was great with Recoba and Maniero performing magic to keep us up. But since then, the club has been bankrupt 3 times and had to start again from Serie D under a series of names and guises. However, since Joe Tacopina and the other American investors came in back in 2015 (I think) we have been on an upward trajectory. Their investment has completely transformed the club, and though Tacopina has left, our new president (Duncan Neideraurer, who was part of Tacopina’s investment group) has taken us even further. There is now a real plan as to how we build as a club, both on and off the pitch.

I can only imagine the emotion of seeing the club return to Serie A by winning the promotion playoff last spring. Obviously, once the new season got underway though, the reality probably set in that this team would be battling to fight relegation. What has to happen this season for us to see Venezia remaining in Serie A into the next campaign?

MR: I don’t think anyone thought that this season would be easy. We gained promotion via the playoffs, so we were always starting on the back foot. We also decided to buy in a lot of new young players, none of whom had Serie A experience. Added to that was the work being done on the stadium at the start of the season to make it ready for Serie A, which meant we had a series of away games to begin. All of that made it a tough start. Since then though, and as Zanetti has gotten to know his players, we have improved. We are now harder to beat, and play some good progressive football. It will be a battle but there are at least a handful of teams I think we are at least as good as, if not better then. It will take determination (which Zanetti is great at instilling) and of course luck, but I am hopeful.

What do you see as the team’s strengths so far this season and what weaknesses have emerged that need to be improved upon?

MR: Looking at weaknesses first, goalkeeper was a real issue, but signing Romero has gone a long way to fixing that. The other problem is a lack of bite in front of goal - we signed Henry, but actually I would have liked to see Forte get a chance at this level as I think he could make an impact.

Strengths are the team spirit that Zanetti has already instilled and the form of players like Busio, Ceccaroni and Johnsen. If we can keep those three and a few others fit, we can give most teams a good game. And Zanetti is a great manager.

Venezia FC v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

As an Italian-American, I love to see Americans playing in Serie A, so it was exciting to see Venezia bring in three Americans this season, most notably Gianluca Busio. As a US-based site, we have a lot of American readers, so maybe you can fill us in on the American contingent. First off, how has Busio done so far? What do you like about his game? And do you see Tessmann or De Vris playing much of a role this season?

MR: Busio has been a real find. He came in pitched as the US Pirlo, but Zanetti has said he reminds him more of Gattuso. I think he’s more a mix of the two - he is a strong tackler, but has a great reading of the game and can play a killer pass. He is probably our key player so far this season.

I’ve seen less of Tessman, but he did well in his first full game at the weekend against Genoa. He looks workmanlike, but every team needs a few players like that. De Vries is with our youth team, so haven’t had a chance to see him yet.

The league officiating has come under increasing scrutiny lately, particularly when Roma is involved. Venezia may not have been victimized in the same fashion yet, but what’s your take on the state of Serie A officiating? Do you feel smaller clubs like Venezia get a fair shake?

MR: I would say this, but I think Venezia have had poorer decisions against them than Roma! Just go and look at Ampadu’s red card against Salernitana, where he was shockingly sent off for a clean tackle on Ribery. An absolutely ridiculous decision.

I generally think the refereeing has been poor this season. Refs in Serie A are far too keen to give fouls and penalties, especially for the big teams or the big players. It’s pretty appalling really; no wonder Italian clubs struggle in Europe when they don’t get the friendly decisions that they do in the league.

Venezia’s kits have garnered A LOT of mainstream attention—and for good reason. But has the hype over the shirts overshadowed what the club is achieving on the pitch or is any attention good attention?

MR: There is definitely a plan to build a brand that is known worldwide, and that has worked. We are very much the hipster’s club now, for good or ill… I don’t really think that has affected the team, who have gotten on with the tough job of trying to stay up.

And to end a more lighthearted topic. Which of those is your favorite? And, in your opinion, are these the nicest kits since you’ve been a supporter? If not, do you have a past kit that you like the best?

MR: So this may not be popular, but I’m not a fan of the new strips, at all! We are the arancioneroverdi—the orange black and greens—and you wouldn’t really know it from these shirts. There is way too much gold on the home shirt and hardly any of green and orange. And our third shirt is blue…? I don’t get it; yes, they attract the hipsters, but they don’t have a lot to do with the club. The away shirt is probably the best of a bad bunch.

The Nike shirts of the past couple of seasons were far better in my opinion (and in the eyes of most Venezia supporters). However, my favourite is probably our 1999/00 shirt that we had when Recoba was at the club. Probably not objectively the nicest, but the one I remember the most fondly!